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West Africa: Traders reject EPA

Daily Trust | 17 August 2009

West Africa: Traders Reject EPA

The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) have voiced concerns over what it calls inflexibility on the part of the European Union (EU) in the ongoing negotiations between it (EU) and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) over the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Addressing news men at the weekend in Abuja after a two day sensitisation meeting of stakeholders, President of NANTS, Ken Ukaoha said over the past eight years that the negotiations have lasted, the EU have refused to take into consideration the peculiar situation of Africa nations as the least developed countries of the world.

He said all the while, the ECOWAS have made concessions but to their dismay, the EU have refused to make any and equally have not make serious commitment of fund for development of infrastructure and institution as agreed in the Cotonou agreement.

"The West Africa party, which has made significant concessions, without visible returns from the EU. For instance, there has not been any clear pronouncement by the EU on the financial commitment to address West Africa’s potential adjustment costs that would be caused by the EPA. EU appears to be declining from appeared to be the initial agreement in principle of setting up a regional fund for EPA meant to address all hiccups and supply side constraints that are evident in West Africa, where the citizenry are eager to know how much is being placed on the table to mitigate all losses or potential shortcomings that would be actuated by EPA."

He said out of 16 of the least developed countries of the world, 12 of them were from the region and that no economic partnership in the world works with full deregulation of its economies to outside market like the EU who have heavily subsidised export product, thereby subjecting the local businesses to undue competition. According to him, the October 29, dateline for the signing of the initial agreement is set to fail as no objective work have been done so far, saying if no meaning development was not recorded in the past three decades of trade partnership with the EU by the ECOWAS, it will be unfair to future generation of the region to sign away another trade agreement which is skewed in favour of the EU. He said: "If West Africa is not careful, it runs the risk of chasing rainbows by engaging in an excessive liberalisation of its trade with Europe in the hope of speculative funds which only turn out to be nothing but an empty shell."

NANTS therefore demanded for the provision of funds for the development of institutions and infrastructure to implement the EPA to the signing alongside a moratorium in the first five years, followed by 20% trade liberalisation in the first 10 years of the agreement to be subjected to review of performance to establish if the poverty level has dropped significantly and the GDP improved.

EPA negotiations have been on since 2002 and were expected to be concluded by 2007 but were deadlock. Another date of October, 2009 was not set in 2008 for the partial agreement on good and development and another phase to start in January 2010 covering trade and services and other outstanding issues which now appear to on the brick.